Vice and Coco: Mainstream strikes back
Irish Christianne Dizon (The Philippine Star) - December 3, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - From the first floor of TriNoma Mall located in Quezon City, I could hear screams emanating from the topmost level. It’s November 30, Bonifacio Day, and while I was expecting the mall to be packed with people, I didn’t expect it to be this full. Children are running around, and the escalators are groaning from the volume of people going up and down. As I vie for a spot on an escalator, two overly eager women elbow me out of the way, and I hear one of them mutter, “Bilis! Nandiyan si Vice!”

I’m here for the opening day screening of the action-comedy film, Super Parental Guardians, hosted by Dreamscape, an ABS CBN TV unit. It’s the same unit that is behind the very successful teleserye Ang Probinsyano starring the 33-year-old outlier Coco Martin. Coco, that rare indie actor who crossed over to mainstream and became a legitimate A-Lister, however, isn’t here. He is on set taping an episode of his top-rating show. It’s his fellow outlier, comedian Vice Ganda, dubbed “the phenomenal box office star,” who is here to represent their tandem. There are many security personnel stationed outside Cinema 6 where the film is being screened. As for the crowd they’re trying to control? Roughly 10x their number. I walk towards the entrance gingerly, hoping the strict guards let me through. Actor Joey Marquez, who’s wearing a yellow shirt, emerges from the cinema, and the crowd promptly turns their attention to him, circles him like hungry zombies, giving me a chance to walk past the guards. Star Cinema staffer El spots me, and she is my ticket to this artista-studded event.

The theater is full. Some people are sitting on the aisles or standing up, and throughout the movie, you can hear all permutations of laughter — the titas on my left are cackling, while the bespectacled man on my right is low-key sniggering. It has all the elements you expect from a Vice Ganda flick: sarcastic retorts and observational comedy, peppered with references to whatever is current or relevant — from Senator Leila de Lima to Pokemon Go; from the rise of extrajudicial killings to the zombie flick Train to Busan.  Super Parental Guardians was made with the intention of being an entry to the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival. His 2015 entry, Beauty & the Bestie, his first MMFF collaboration with Coco Martin, was a box office success, and they were hoping to do it again, with new material and new actors in the mix. But 2016, it should be clear to all by now, is a year of change — Vice’s and Coco’s films didn’t make the cut, like many of the usual suspects we’ve come to expect every December 25th. In their place, movies crafted by smaller production houses; movies that encourage the Pinoy audience to wean themselves from the traditional. After the screening, we got a chance to speak to Vice and Coco about what they really think about this development, how they won the hearts of the Filipino audience, and how we could teach Pinoys to embrace other kinds of movies.

Nahuli niyo yung kiliti ng masa. How do you do that?

Vice Ganda: Kasi nanggaling ako sa isang masang masang lugar at ako ay isang masang masang tao. Kasi slum area, depressed area, ang kinalakihan ko: Sa may Tambunting Street, Santa Cruz, Manila. Sa ilalim ng Abad Santos station ng LRT. Bahagi siya ng sementeryo. Nasa gitna siya ng North Cemetery at tsaka Chinese Cemetery. Yung banyo namin, yung pinagtatayuan ng gripo at tsaka ng poso may lapida pa ng Instik. Kaya minsan pag may kino-construct na bahay dun tapos nagbubungkal sila ng lupa, minsan may nakukuhang buto. Tapos laging nagkaka sunog. Sinasabi nila kaya nagkaka sunog daw sinasadya para lumayas kami dun sa lugar kasi kine-claim na nung totoong may-ari. Kaya minsan nag iiba iba yung mga address namin. Kasi umuusog usog, tapos biglang iba na yung kapitbahay mo kasi masusunog tapos tatayuan na naman ng panibagong bahay. So kunyari mahirap yung character ko, alam ko agad. Sasabihin ko, hindi yan pang mahirap. Sasabihin ko agad sa kanila. Hindi ganyan ang kinikilos ng mahirap. Hindi kami ganyan kumain. Alam ko kasi naranasan ko yun eh. Kaya minsan sasabihin nila [production crew], ‘Paano ba? Eh pang mahirap naman yan eh.’ Sa inyo mahirap yan, pero sa amin, susyal sa amin yan.

Coco Martin: Kasi bata pa lang ako, taga hanga na ako ng mga pelikulang Pilipino.Unang una lumaki ako sa hirap, broken family, lumaki ako sa lola. Ang dami kong values na natutunan, ang dami kong experience sa buhay. Nagtrabaho ako sa Canada, nag-janitor ako dun, lumaban ako sa iba’t ibang film festivals abroad dahil sa mga indie films na ginawa ko. Kumbaga napakarami kong experience. Napakarami kong pinagdaanan sa buhay. Siguro yun yung mga tools kung bakit naiintindihan ko kung ano yung kailangan, ano yung gusto ng tao, ano yung dapat shine-share natin. Ang hindi nawawala sa sarili ko yung kultura natin. Ano ba yung kultura ng Pilipino? Ano bang klase ang Pilipino? Hindi ako umaalis sa basic. Kasi kahit sabihin mo na napakaganda ng mga Hollywood movies, kahit sabihin mo na ang mga kabataan ngayon masyado nang independent, hindi eh. Ang Pinoy yun pa rin eh: Napaka conservative pa rin eh. Napaka mapagmahal pa rin natin sa pamilya natin. At mapagmahal tayo sa kapwa, at napakasipag natin bilang Pilipino.

When you found out you weren’t part of MMFF, what was your first reaction?

Vice Ganda: Initially I was very sad. Kasi lahat naman kami ang target naming magkaroon kami ng film fest entry. So the moment we knew na hindi pasok, I felt so sad, pero sobrang saglit lang. Tiningnan ko sa Twitter, binasa ko yung mga tweets under #MMFF2016, tapos masaya ako and at the same time, naiyak ako, kasi ang ganda nung mga tweets nung tao about me. Hindi sila masaya na wala akong entry kasi nakasanayan na nila. Gusto nila sa Pasko yung klase ng pelikulang binibigay ko sa kanila. I came to realize na all these years, may naiwan na pala ako sa mga pamilyang Pilipino na niyakap na nila ako bilang bahagi ng Pasko nila. Na-overwhelm, naiyak ako. Pagkatapos kong umiyak, nakatulog ako. Napagod ako.

Coco Martin: Honestly, hindi ako nagalit hindi ako nagtampo. It’s a choice eh. May jury. Kasi sanay ako sumali sa [film] festivals. Ako, respect. Sabi ko nga, tatanggapin mo yan eh. Tinanggap natin na sila yung jury and at the same time, sumali tayo, humabol tayo ng pelikula. Wala naming assurance na siguradong matatanggap. Eh di sana wala ng festival, wala ng competition kung sure na palang papasok tayo. Nung hindi kami natanggap, na-sad lang ako kasi nag-promise kasi ako sa dalawang bata, kay Onyok tsaka kay Mac Mac tsaka kay Pepe na pag nagkaroon ako ng pelikula sa MMFF, sasama ko kayo. Eh hindi nangyari, dun ako na-sad.

How do you teach the audience there are other kinds of movies?

Vice Ganda: We don’t have any choice but to embrace change. Talaga namang nag e-evolve ang lahat eh. Meron akong nabasa na sinasabi na para mapakain mo sa isang tao yung bagong putahe, hindi mo dapat isubo agad sa kanya. Dapat dahan dahanin para unti unti niyang ma-appreciate. Kunin mo muna yung loob niya para pag nakuha mo yung loob niya, mas madali mo nang maipapakain sa kanya yung gusto mong ipatikim sa kanya. Wag nating madaliin. To educate the audience? That is so right. We really have to educate the audience. Katulad naman sa eskwelahan di ba? From January to November, teachers educate their students. Tinuturuan nila ang mga estudyante nila araw araw mula January hanggang November. Pero pagdating ng December may break. Christmas break. Hindi muna tayo mag aaral. Mag ho-holiday muna tayo. Pagkatapos ng Christmas break, mag-aral tayo ulit. Ibig sabihin lahat may perfect timing di ba? Turuan natin ang audience natin araw-araw pero sa pasko dapat nag be-break din tayo.

Coco Martin: Alam mo, hindi mo mabibigla yan. Dahan dahan yan. Nung nag uumpisa ang indie, kami yun. Walang pumapansin, indie — indie maintindhian. Lahat ng lait, lahat ng pagpupula, nakuha namin. Dahan-dahan, ginapang, napatunayan, nanalo ng international ganyan ganyan. And then niyakap. Yung pinaka ayaw kong nangyayari yung nag aaway ang mainstream at indie. Kasi unang una iisang industriya tayo. Yun ang pinaka mali. Kasi lahat naman tayo may kanya-kanyang definition of art. Hindi naman lahat ng indie maganda. At hindi rin lahat ng mainstream maganda. Pero walang siraan. Wala dapat away.

* * *

Tweet the author @IrishDDizon. Photo by Regine David

Produced by David Milan

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